A Johnson Box


A Johnson Box is one of the easiest ways to increase direct marketing response.


Dear reader,

Frank H. Johnson was a strategic direct mail copywriter who was one of the first to take “bottom lining" information to new heights within the direct mail industry. Johnson wanted to boost the response of the letters / packages he was writing. One idea he had was to test putting key information at the top of his letters in hopes of grabbing his reader’s attention quickly.

Because the Johnson Box is positioned at the beginning of the letter, you can't help but read it.

Perhaps Frank Johnson got the idea from Newspaper headlines. It makes sense he may have – newspapers have been grabbing readers attention for decades with eye popping – emotionally driven headiness that make readers want to read further. No matter where Johnson’s inspiration came from, his idea worked and the "Johnson Box" has since become part of a classic direct marketing package for fundraisers and businesses alike.

the "Johnson Box" is part of the "classic" direct marketing package.

What best practices can you use when developing a Johnson Box?

Here are some strategic design tips you can begin using right away:

  • Include the main benefit of your offer for your target audience in the Johnson Box. Include your phone number or your URL so they can 'Act Now'
  • Don't be limited with a box shape. Use circles, straight lines, dotted lines or asterisk. Use a coloured background or... don't use any box at all
  • Add photo - show people what you are offering or who they may help if you are asking them to donate. Use your imagination.

Whatever you choose to do, make a Johnson Box appropriate for your letter and your package objectives.

There's no absolute formula that will tell you how much of a lift in response you'll have from a Johnson Box. As with all aspects of your direct response marketing package be strategic; test how the use of a Johnson Box impacts your overall results. I also urge you to test different Johnson Box copy using the same letter and/or artwork. Lets face it, even if your response rate increases by 5%, it will mean a lot to your lifetime value of a client... and your return on investment (ROI).

Frank Johnson, Creator of the Johnson Box died on March 8, 2001. He was 88.


Copyright © 2011 by Bruce Mayhew.